e-learning development tools

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E-learning Development Tools

Shijina Jayaprasad

San Jose State University

Abstract

E-learning development is time consuming and slow. Developers use different tool sets, which cater to their requirements. With thousands of tools to choose from it has become more and more difficult to find an optimum e-learning development tool. The question that arises is, does such a tool exist at all? This paper is an attempt to find what e-learning tools are used or most preferred by professionals in the world of Instructional Technology.

There is no set criterion for choosing an e-learning tool; the choice often relies on factors like price, learning curve and results. The choice of an e-learning tool also differs from industry to industry. This paper also talks about the factors that should be considered to achieve maximum results from an e-learning tool.

The research paper will also feature the data collection results, surveys and interviews.

Introduction

Rapid e-learning is a relatively new phrase and approach in the corporate training arena. Rapid e-learning is not a marketing buzz-word, crafted to sell sophisticated authoring tools. It is a fast growing set of instructional techniques that enable faster and cheaper training development in order to meet immediate business needs ([12] Jimenez, 2005).

According to Gustafson (2006), more and more companies are embracing rapid e-learning to augment their learning strategy. With rapid e-learning, organizations can reduce the time spent on course development and can place new capabilities to develop and deliver content into the hands of those who hold the knowledge within a company–the SMEs. Today, new technologies make it possible for those without any IT background to use existing materials–such as presentations, documents and a Web browser–to create and deliver online courses quickly and easily while also being able to track course completion and learner progress. As a result, companies can enjoy the engaging delivery and extensive reach of e-learning while accelerating the distribution of information.

Data Collection

A survey was conducted to find what e-learning tools are currently being used by e-learning professionals. The survey had about 60 respondents from around the world. Data gathered from the survey was studied with the help of bar graphs.

01. What type of organization do you belong to?

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Most of the respondents belong to the education industry, followed by consulting, computers and healthcare.

02. What is your designation/position?

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The respondents were mostly instructional designers, e-learning specialists and Sr. Instructional designers in their organization.

03. Name the e-learning tool used by you for training and course creation.

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Articulate (13.79%) topped the survey, followed by Adobe Captivate (12.07%) and Flash (5.17%).

04. Which category does the tool belong to?

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05. Do you use an LMS (Learning Management System)?

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Most of the respondents did not use a LMS, however, Moodle LMS and Saba were among the ones that are mostly being used.

06. Do you incorporate audio/video in your courses?

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Most of courses developed by the respondents had an element of audio and video.

07. What is your organization’s e-learning budget?

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Most of the companies work with an e-learning budget of less than 500k, very few organizations’s spent more than $2million dollars.

08. What is the average time for project completion?

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It takes less than six months to complete one e-learning project, very few e-learning projects took more than six months, organization size and project requirement mattered.

09. What is the size of the education/e-learning development team in your organization?

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The e-learning teams mostly consisted of just three to four people in one organization; very few organizations had more than 500 people in their organization.

The survey reports clearly point to the fact that developers prefer using rapid e-learning tool to create courses and training materials. In an interview conducted with Cindy Stargiotti, an instructional designer at Synaptics, a touchpad equipment manufacturing company, revealed that they used Articulate Presenter, Engage and Quizmaker to develop their courses.

Telecommunications equipment manufacturer Alcatel (Piano, Texas) also enjoys the highly customizable approach that rapid e-learning allows and has made major strides in moving away from traditional instructor-led programs to more virtual classrooms over the past five years, according to Jo-Ann Killinger, director of customer product training for Alcatel. The company’s channel partners currently create Power Point-based training courses with rapid e-learning

technologies from Articulate (New York), such as its Quizmaker 2.0 tool for making highly customizable Flash-based quizzes, assessments and surveys.

Gillian Duncan, Senior Education Manager at Intuitive Surgical, spoke about her team’s efforts in developing courses for their sales team embedded with video and audio, they preferred Captivate, because of the ease of use and results that Captivate provided. She also spoke about accessibility as one of the concerns and the file downloading issues with Captivate.

Jules Kurtz, also from Intuitive Surgical used Adobe Connect to deliver their courses successfully. Adobe Presenter and Captivate is used at Cisco Systems, Inc. to develop training for new hires, Daisy Tam, Education Specialist at Cisco shared this piece of information.

Issues faced

Experts say to avoid dumping all of your content into the software. Instead, you have to do careful, ongoing assessments to determine which courses are a good fit for rapid tools, and which are not. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to apply the tools as frequently as possible,” says Bryan Chapman, an e-learning analyst with brandon-hall.com in Sunnyvale, California “But you have to watch out that you’re not sacrificing the quality of your courses by using them, and that you’re not applying them to situations for which they aren’t a good fit” (Boehle, 2005).

While struggling with the necessity to train employees quickly, corporations are also facing decreasing budget and human resources that were once available to develop and deliver training, according to systematic, well-thought out approaches. In many instances, even if instructors were available, there would not be enough time to develop a formal course and to bring an instructor up-to-date so that training in the traditional sense could be implemented. It should be noted that this situation may not hold true in the academia, where instructors are the subject matter experts (SMEs) and therefore there are less concerns with the increased time for content development and delivery and with use of sophisticated technology (Taran, 2006).

According to a survey conducted by the E-learning Guild, an authoritative entity in the area of research within the instructional design field, out of 600 companies that were investigated, 82 percent develop content in-house. Based on a Bersin and Associates research, out of 4,500 surveys, 46 percent of respondents admitted that their request for training is time critical (four weeks or less). According to the same survey, the two most prevalent problems reported within a corporate training setting are that it takes too long to build training and that it is often too difficult to work with SMEs (Bersin and Associates, 2005).

Conclusion

The choice of an e-learning tool varies from organization to organization and person to person. Most of the tools present in the market provide rapid e-learning development options. But it is the requirement not the tool that dictates what should be used for course creation. The requirement could be of converting static PowerPoints to interactive courses, in this case you use PowerPoint add-in tools like Articulate Presenter or Adobe Presenter. Screen-Capturing tools like Captivate, Snag-It or Camtasia helps in designing demonstrations, but tools like Captivate go a step further and you can create an entire e-learning package from scratch. Rapid e-learning development tools like Apple Keynote, Trivantis Lectora, Respondus StudyMate, KnowledgePlanet Firefly, Raptivity, etc. are also popular.

Dreamweaver, a popular web authoring tool, is also extensively used for course creation, Audacity is a popular audio/podcasting tool, Jott and Garageband also provide easy to create podcast interface.

Web meeting conferencing tools like Yugma, Elluminate and Adobe Connect offer an excellent platform to reach out to your target audience. There are a host of Learning Management Systems, Moodle is a popular Learning Management System. Content Management systems like Drupal and Joomla are also used to publish content online.

Web 2.0 tools are very popular amongst e-learning developers as it fosters collaborative learning among the learners. Blogging tools like wordpress, edublogs and blogger and wiki tools like PB Wiki, Wikispaces, MediaWiki are also popular.

The world of e-learning is expanding, with further improvements in the technological front, future e-learning tools will alleviate several issues like huge development costs and time.

References

Gustafson, J. (2006, July). Delivering Training at the Speed of Learning. Training, pp. 7,7.

Factiva and Alcatel Resolve Training Challenges Using Rapid E-Learning Tools. (cover story).

(2006, June 9). Corporate Training & Development Advisor.

Boehle, S. (2005, July). Rapid E-learning. Training, 42(7), 12-17.

Bersin and Associates (2005), “Rapid elearning: what works”, available at:

www.elearningresearch.com

Carmen Taran (2006). Enabling SMEs to deliver synchronous online training – practical

guidelines. Campus – Wide Information Systems, 23(3), 182-195.

Jimenez, R. (2005), “Rapid e-learning design and development”, Vignettes Training, available at:

www.vignettestraining.com

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3 Comments »

  1. Deana said

    Hey Shijina,

    E-Learning is such an interesting topic and one that I am very interested. Obviously because my portfolio contains many e-learning items. One suggestion that I have is, perhaps you can also add to your list of tools, a list of best practices that would enhance the e-learning tools.

  2. Tridib Roy Chowdhury said

    Very interesting post.. I would love to hear more about your reserach, and the work done at San Jose State.

    • shijina said

      Thanks Tridib. Check out my new post on mobile learning. I use Adobe tools to develop most of my training, especially Captivate 3 and Presenter.

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